“Look Over Here!” – Pleasure Galore and Hidden Labor

Posted in Uncategorized by iTerp on May 5, 2010

I have never actually “enjoyed” writing a required paper in college. At least, I’ve never enjoyed the topic and the process. For my final paper I focused on marriage patters and gender roles in the 1950s, and how they are viewed today. I kept arguing with myself that our  society HAS evolved, and we ARE NOT the Joneses. But I am increasingly seeing that 40s and 50s structures are still extremely prevalent today and not that dissimilar.

In class, we were discussing some themes from Lorde and way back when from Delaney. I really felt a connection to this theory that pleasure is the absence of labor to enjoy something. Things like great sex, perfect bodies, and the perfect home with the white-picket fence all seem like great ideals, but once you figure out the work required to do them, some find it’s not worth it.  Especially in the case of the home, one can zoom in on different aspects of the labor it takes to maintain and create this sanctuary: is it the family and relationships that you labor for? The perfect marriage? A balance of dominance? Smart and driven children? A dog that doesn’t crap on the carpet? Well for the 50s, it was ALL of this.  Take a look at a few of the following advertisements:

This woman is literally leaping for joy for the sheer fact that the clothes are clean!

This woman REALLY looks concerned! This is an acceptable question to pose to an audience, no? I’m dying to know…

Take a good, hard look. These are “femineered.” That means they have to be good for women, right?

“HOW DID YOU KNOW THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANTED?!” That’s probably the only time we’ll ever see that face, too…

Are we missing anything here? NO? Look again.


Why is it that these women are laboring and ooohing and ahhhing over shiny metal like myna birds? These women are not only laboring, but they also have to put a form of a “Pokerface” on to act like they really enjoy their jobs. Yet, we can’t seem to find the men anywhere.

Wait, wait, wait…here they are:

Kicking back on the couch (I’ve never seen a woman SITTING on a couch in an ad, nevermind the idiocy of “mildness.”)

Well thank goodness for that!

“You may have my wife, but you’ll never have my car!”

“Hold the phone now, Johnny! You mean we can fly AND meet women?!”

Was this some type of divide and conquer method? Separate the sexes, make them labor and genderize space in different areas, and watch them fumble like idiots and act like what’s happening is acceptable? I think we can form a consensus that separation between the sexes, between most everything, is bad. Cue the separation of blacks and whites and an all-male Church. (I can reference the latter because I’m Catholic.) But have we really come forward and rejected this ideas?

We still have some pretty genderized commericals here, people:

Axe Hair Commercial

(Please pay attention to the very end, the water splash and the two rocks.)


(Denote: old woman ≠ sports.)

At least she’s gotten out of the house? Oh, and she’s black.

Gender roles are not dead. WE ARE STILL LABORING FOR THESE UNREALISTIC IDEALS! Women are sexy and clever, yet not as useful as their male counterparts. And men are rugged, and a little wild, but they can get the job done!

Can the real 21st century couple please stand up?